The recent speculation about a possible economic double dip is being met with great concern by businesses across the UK.
This is especially worrying for those in the construction sector which has been hit very hard in the last few years and in particular, smaller companies and contractors, many of whom have been struggling through a period of dwindling demand and limited access to financial support. The latest FMB State of the Trade survey shows that the outlook for the next quarter offers little comfort – the sector is not out of the woods yet and there are trying times ahead.
Against this bleak backdrop though, the industry simply cannot afford to make the same mistakes that were made in the 90s and risk another skills gap. This is why we must consider the skills coming through and those that will be needed to take advantage of the upturn when it comes – and it will - albeit later than most of us had anticipated. At CITB-ConstructionSkills, we want to ensure that small employers and contractors have access to the right skills and knowledge; that they can avail themselves of talented trainees and graduates who are work-ready and armed with the competencies that they need.
For that reason, we are working with industry to review the skills coming through from construction qualifications, training and apprenticeship programmes and are seeking input from all employers on whether or not construction education is providing what the industry needs and if not, how it needs to adapt.
CHANGING SKILLS NEEDS
As well as the recession, other changes in the political and educational landscape will impact the nature of the construction work in the next few years. As well as the UK’s green agenda and a leaning towards sustainable construction, rapidly advancing technology will alter the skills needs. How many bricklayers will the industry need in 2020 or 2030? Does the current training meet SME needs? What new skills and competencies will make all the difference to SMEs - either to set them apart from the competition or to simply ensure they survive?
Along with wider changes, construction education and training has undergone significant changes and challenges recently. The coalition Government, largely influenced by the findings of the Wolf Review, is keen to overhaul the vocational offering for 14 – 19 year olds. There has been a clear leaning toward apprenticeships and a push for its emergence as the main route for entry into construction and the wider built environment.
The Government has tried to abolish NVQs as part of the introduction of the new Qualifications and Credit Framework, and has removed funding for the 14-19 Diploma in the Construction and the Built Environment – a move which has met with criticism from industry, training providers and students who rate the Diploma highly. The Young Apprentice Programme has also been removed and it remains unclear whether or not it will be replaced. New training programmes have emerged to include the new University Technical Colleges (UTCs), which form part of the Government’s Academies programme, several of the UTCs have construction specialisms - and more are to be announced.
CiTB-CONSTRUCTIONSKILLS WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU
With all of these changes it is important that industry’s voice is heard. For us to produce a thorough and representative review it is vital that SMEs, who make up 93 percent of the sector, and who have often very different requirements, share their thoughts on existing training, courses and skills. Do they suit the needs of smaller employers? Is the current model of apprenticeships for example, appropriate for smaller businesses?
With an aging workforce emerging, a shrunken sector and one the recession has rendered less attractive to young people, getting talented starters through the door will become more difficult. It is vital therefore that we all work together to help CiTB-ConstructionSkills wants to hear from you, visit: www.pyetait.com/construction
For further information about the review go to www.cskills.org.